Kuta is the place in Bali where 90% of people spend the most time and money. It is close to the airport, on the beach and loaded with restaurants, bars and nightlife.
Some people do not find the impetus to move out of the area, or as one tourist once told me, If you are a single man why would you need to leave?
Of course there are other areas of the island that are interesting and pleasant to visit including Lovina on the north coast. I am putting together some local maps to help visitors navigate their way around Lovina and here is an over-view. Lovina is actually a string of small villages ( Kalisasem & Temukus, Kalibukbuk, Anturan, Tukad Mungga and Pemaron. Kalibukbuk also has a section known as Banyualit ) that have been dumped under the same name.
I have stayed in a couple of places in Lovina and the 2 major features are the coastline and the main road that swings close to the coast in places. Tip: Choose a hotel on part of the coast where there is some space between the beach and the road, otherwise traffic noise will be annoying.
The main little tourist section is in Kalibukbuk which features wall to wall restaurants and bars. This is the high density area. I stayed at Nirwana Seaside Hotel right on the beach in Kalibukbuk at the end of the main street. Surprisingly decent with a good pool, old guest house type accommodation and new shiny AC rooms at the back. We got an AC room with twin beds for 175,000rp.
Swimmers will enjoy the black sand beaches of Lovina because of the warm water and lack of waves. Another attraction is the sunrise dolphin watching although this is a tourist trap and you would be better off hiring a local with a private boat to take you for a snorkeling trip than chase a dozen other boats round in circles.
Here is a quick run down of places:
Anturan. Used to be all guest houses but developing to more spendy places. Still budget places here though. You will see a petrol station on the main road and Anturan is opposite. Local fishing fleet is here.
Banyualit. A selection of about 20 places to stay ranging from budget hotels to a bit spendier. There is a selection of places to eat too. Located 1.5km east of Kalibukbuk and west of the petrol station in Anturan.
Kalibukbuk. The busy area with 2 streets loaded with tourist places perpendicular off of the main road. Budget places to stay on the main road and a ton of dive centers, restaurants and bars down Jn. Mawar and Jl. Bina Ria. I have zoomed past Jl. Mawar before so watch out for the Khi Khi restaurant across the street. Once on it you will immediately know it is the street. You will also find car rental, money-changers and travel agents here.
Kaliasem & Temukus. Located on the western edge of Lovina starting 1km west of Kalibukbuk you will come across an assortment of budget places like the Puri Tasik Madu. All the accommodation here is close to the beach and close to the road. Spice Dive Center is on the left side of the road heading west.
Why would you want to stay in Lovina?
I think Lovina makes a great place to stay after exploring the highlands. There are multiple routes you could take, a straight shot up from Kuta to Singaraja stopping in Bedugal to check out Pura Ulun Danau Bratan and then heading west from Singaraja. You could take a lovely slow cruise past Danau Buyan and Danau Tamblingan and swing down through the highland villages of Munduk and Tunjuk before heading for Seririt and Lovina. A longer trip might be up through Kintamani and west along the coast, enjoying the panoramas of Gunung Batur and experiencing cooler weather for a brief while before heading to a decent hotel with a pool in Lovina.
Having an array of accommodation on the north coast means you can break out of the Kuta Beach force fields and still get your pizza and beer by the pool. I must admit I need to explore this area in more depth in order to be able to give a better first hand account of what is up there and it will be my pleasure doing that for you.